TEHRAN (AFP) â€” Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad launched a fresh attack against Israel on Wednesday, dismissing the Holocaust as a “myth” and saying the Jewish state should be moved as far away as Alaska.
And with just a week to go before scheduled talks with the European Union â€” which is seeking guarantees Tehran will not acquire atomic weapons â€” the outspoken president vowed Iran would not compromise “one iota” on its nuclear programme.
“They have invented a myth that Jews were massacred and place this above God, religions and the prophets,” the right-winger declared in a speech carried live on state television.
“If somebody in their country questions God, nobody says anything, but if somebody denies the myth of the massacre of Jews, the Zionist loudspeakers and the governments in the pay of Zionism will start to scream,” he said.
“Our proposal is this: Give a piece of your land in Europe, the United States, Canada or Alaska so they [the Jews] can create their own state.”
His comments drew swift condemnation from the European Union and Iran’s arch-enemies Israel and the United States, already alarmed over Tehran’s disputed nuclear ambitions and ballistic missile programme.
Ahmadinejad, a hardcore Islamic revolutionary who won a shock election victory in June, has sparked international outrage over a string of anti-Israeli outbursts. In October, he said Israel must be “wiped off the map,” and last week said Israel was a “tumour” that should be moved to Germany or Austria â€” comments that were also condemned by the UN Security Council. But his latest comments remove any doubt that he also backs revisionist historians â€” often branded in the West as neo-Nazis â€” who maintain Nazi Germany’s systematic slaughter of an estimated six million Jews between 1933 and 1945 never took place. In a sharp response, Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Mark Regev told AFP that Ahmadinejad’s comments reflected a “perverse vision of the world held by this regime and underline the danger should such an extremist regime have a nuclear capacity in the future.”
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s spokesman, Raanan Gissin, also said menacingly that “thank God, Israel has the means at its disposal to prevent any attempt to bring another Holocaust to Israel.â€
“We hope that these extremist declarations will make the world wake up to the nature of this regime â€” especially the fact that Iran’s nuclear programme and its support of international terrorism represents not only a danger for Israel but for the entire Western civilisation,” Gissin said.
Israel has consistently called for international action to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, with its chief of staff Dan Halutz claiming on Tuesday that Tehran would have all the necessary knowledge to build a warhead within three months.
Some Israeli figures and reports have also pointed to the possibility of a preemptive military attack against Iran. In Washington, the White House assailed the outburst as “outrageous.”
“I think all responsible leaders in the international community recognise how outrageous such comments are,” spokesman Scott McClellan said.
“His comments and statements only underscore why it is so important that the international community continue to work together to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons.”
The EU also condemned Ahmadinejad’s remarks.
“They have no place in civilised political debate,” Britain’s Minister for Europe Douglas Alexander, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, said in Strasbourg to the applause of European parliamentarians.
“These remarks are just quite simply completely unacceptable,” fumed the European Commission’s spokeswoman on external affairs, Emma Udwin. “We feel very strongly that Iran is damaging its own interests.” The EU big-three â€” Britain, France and Germany â€” are expected to meet Iranian officials on December 21 in a bid to kick-start stalled diplomacy over Tehran’s nuclear drive.
But Ahmadinejad spelled out that Iran was not ready to give in to demands to limit its work on the nuclear fuel cycle, a process the regime insists is only directed to making electricity but which can also be extended to make weapons.
“Be certain that we will not back away one iota from our legitimate nuclear rights,” said Ahmadinejad, who was speaking to thousands of people in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan.
The EU, backed by the United States, is now pinning its hopes for a compromise under which Iran’s enrichment work would be carried out in Russia, although this has also been rejected by Tehran. A failure of the talks could see Iran referred to the Security Council, which has the power to impose sanctions.